Thursday, October 31, 2013

Signs of Deflationary Depression Increase in Europe

All key measures of eurozone inflation fell dramatically in October, stunning the markets and leaving the region dangerously close to a Japan-style deflation trap.

Consumer price inflation (CPI) plunged from 1.1pc to 0.7pc, the lowest since the financial crash in 2008-2009. “This is a massive downward surprise,” said Gizem Kara from BNP Paribas.

A string of debt-crippled states are now sliding into deflation, with Italy buckling over the late summer. The underlying rate is even lower once austerity-linked tax rises are stripped out

The shock data came as EMU-wide unemployment jumped to a record 12.2pc in September, with a further 74,000 people losing their jobs. Youth jobless rates reached 40.2pc in Italy, 57.6pc in Greece and 56.6pc in Spain.
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Quote of the day...

I am the last person to want to see an end to the Ecumenical Movement, but I have to say that I believe it is important for those of us who belong to the Society of Catholic Priests to be quite honest and open about our desire to see many of our fellow Christians delivered from the clutches of fundamentalist churches which have made of the Bible an idol, into a Church which treasures the Bible and the Tradition and Reason as equally important means for God to reveal himself through Jesus Christ to the world today. And we must be equally (and probably more sorrowfully) willing to proclaim that we are happy to liberate Roman Catholics and Orthodox Church Christians from the misogynistic and homophobic teaching, which is their official line (though thankfully many of their priests hate those teachings privately as much as we do). But why should it have to be private – that is a hypocrisy from which we can deliver them if they will be received into the Episcopal Church.u
-From a sermon preached by Rev. Gordon Reid, Oct 10 2013, St. Clements Church Philadelphia PA.
HT: Dr. Tighe


Sad news, retired Episcopal Bishop John-David Schofield has reposed. He was one of the good guys who stood tall, refusing accommodation with the heretics in TEo, and was the first to lead his diocese out. Memory eternal.

Italy: The Nation That Crushes Its Young

My son Antonio just turned 21 years old, and I’m worried. Not only is his generation of young Italians grappling with the longest economic slump in modern times, but they also have to deal with us, their fathers and mothers. 
I’ve taken to calling us the Generazione Pitone, the Python Generation. We refuse to give ground, and instead slither forward and ingest everything in our path. We have stamina. We are selfish. We have a soundtrack (that’s why Bruce Springsteen is still touring). And now that we’re getting old and retiring, we cost plenty. 
Read the rest here.
Shamelessly stolen from here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

October 25, 2013, the Feast of the Mother of God "Jerusalem", the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill celebrated the Divine Liturgy at the Holy Trinity Cathedral in Podolsk.

Beleaguered Syrian Christians increasingly targeted by jihadis

DAMASCUS, Syria — Sami Amir is used to the deep echoing rumble of the Syrian army artillery pounding rebel positions on the outskirts of Damascus. It’s the thump of mortars launched from an Islamist-controlled neighborhood that scares him to death.

The mortars have repeatedly hit in his mainly Christian district of Damascus, al-Qassaa, reportedly killing at least 32 people and injuring dozens of others the past two weeks.
Read the rest here.

Obama administration knew millions could not keep their health insurance

President Obama repeatedly assured Americans that after the Affordable Care Act became law, people who liked their health insurance would be able to keep it. But millions of Americans are getting or are about to get cancellation letters for their health insurance under Obamacare, say experts, and the Obama administration has known that for at least three years.

Four sources deeply involved in the Affordable Care Act tell NBC News that 50 to 75 percent of the 14 million consumers who buy their insurance individually can expect to receive a “cancellation” letter or the equivalent over the next year because their existing policies don’t meet the standards mandated by the new health care law. One expert predicts that number could reach as high as 80 percent. And all say that many of those forced to buy pricier new policies will experience “sticker shock.”
Read the rest here.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Libertarian Humor

See also...
Libertarian ice fishing
24 types of libertarians
Individual responsibility... or why libertarians make bad lifeguards

New York City is Poised to Elect Leftist Mayor

 Bill de Blasio is poised to win the race for mayor of New York City by a historically large margin, powered by optimism that he will bring about change and by overwhelming voter disapproval of the Republican Party. 

Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat who is currently the public advocate, leads his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, by 45 points among likely voters, according to a New York Times/Siena College poll. That lead, which has remained remarkably consistent in multiple polls over the last six weeks, suggests that Mr. de Blasio could win the most sweeping victory in a mayor’s race since 1985, when Edward I. Koch was re-elected to a third term with a crushing 68-point margin of victory over his opponents.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Here we go again...

Antioch withdraws from Episcopal Assemblies and threatens schism with Jerusalem.

See here and here.

Quote of the day...

Honorable Senators,
My sincere thanks I offer you. Conserve the firm foundations of our institutions. Do your work with the spirit of a soldier in the public service. Be loyal to the Commonwealth and yourselves. And be brief. Above all else, be brief.
- February 1914: The Opening Address of the Massachusetts State Senate by its President, Calvin Coolidge.

Yes. That's the whole speech.

Forget the rest of the country; in Texas Ted Cruz is a hero

...Cruz may be the most reviled man in the U.S. Senate at the moment, not least among his Republican colleagues. He was the face and voice of the government shutdown strategy that brought the nation to the brink of default on its debt and left his party with its lowest poll ratings ever, while doing nothing to halt the implementation of the new health-care law.

But back in Texas, there is a different reality.

During the past week, Cruz has been greeted as a conquering hero, with a round of triumphal public appearances and welcome-home rallies such as the one that Alford attended Monday night in Houston, which was hastily arranged by the King Street Patriots tea party group.

Even more extraordinary is the degree to which the freshman senator — who until 2012 had never run for public office — has quickly remade the Texas Republican Party in his own image.
Read the rest here.

Congress and the perpetual copyright lobby

For most of history, a great character or story or song has passed from its original creator into the public domain. Shakespeare and Charles Dickens and Beethoven are long dead, but Macbeth and Oliver Twist and the Fifth Symphony are part of our shared cultural heritage, free to be used or re-invented by anyone on the planet who is so inclined. But 15 years ago this Sunday, President Clinton signed the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, which retroactively extended copyright protection. As a result, the great creative output of the 20th century, from Superman to "Gone With the Wind" to Gershwin’s "Rhapsody in Blue," were locked down for an extra 20 years.

It was a windfall to the families and corporations that owned these lucrative copyrights. But it meant these iconic works would be off-limits to those who wanted to reuse or reinvent them without permission. And hundreds of thousands of lesser-known works aren’t available at all, because there's no cost-effective way to obtain permission to republish them.

The copyright extension Clinton signed will expire in five years. Copyright holders like the Disney Corp. and the Gershwin estate have a strong incentive to try to extend copyright extension yet further into the future. But with the emergence of the Internet as a political organizing tool, opponents of copyright extension will be much better prepared. The question for the coming legislative battle on copyright is who will prevail: those who would profit from continuing to lock up the great works of the 20th century, or those who believe Bugs Bunny should be as freely available for reuse as Little Red Riding Hood.
Read the rest here.

Russia's “protectorate” over Middle Eastern Christians

The Kremlin is about to consider granting citizenship to about 50 thousand Syrian Christians in the region of Qualamun after they issued a collective request to Moscow’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In statements issued in the past few days, the spokesmen for President Putin and the Ministry confirmed that the request is being examined by the highest Russian authorities. “This is the first time since Christ’s birth that we, the Christians of Saidnaya and Maara Saidnaya, Maalula and Maarun are being threatened with expulsion from our land.”

The letter was full of praise for Putin’s Russia, which was described as a “powerful factor for global peace and stability”. But its remarks about western countries were less flattering: “the aim of the terrorists who are being supported by the West, is to eliminate our presence in our homeland. They use the most abhorrent methods to achieve this, murdering ordinary people for example.”
Read the rest here.

A quick update

Mom is out of the hospital and is doing much better. She had lost a great deal of blood ( her hemoglobin level was down to around 5) from post surgical complications. After some heavy duty blood transfusions and several days of tests they sent her home.

Thanks for the many prayers.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Limited Posting

Mom's back in the hospital... very limited posting for a while.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Pope Francis Moves to Clean Up Vatican Bank

VATICAN CITY — Seven months after ascending the throne of Saint Peter, Pope Francis is in the midst of a crusade against the sins of Vatican City.

Since succeeding Benedict XVI, Francis has publicly sought to transform the tone of his office, extending surprise olive branches to everyone from gays and lesbians to professed atheists. But much more quietly, Vatican officials and observers say, the new pontiff has also begun to alter the atmosphere inside the Holy See, taking steps to shed light on the notoriously opaque Vatican Curia.
Read the rest here.

Obamacare website costs approaching $300 million

The government contract for the company that built the glitch-prone website for Obamacare has ballooned to three times its original cost, and some Republicans are demanding the resignation of the cabinet secretary who oversees it.

Since its launch, on Oct. 1, the site has been plagued by crashes as Americans to try log on and enroll for health insurance. The Obama administration has conceded that the launch has been rockier than it had hoped.

The U.S. arm of a Canadian company, CGI, had the biggest role of the many contractors that worked on the rollout. It won the contract in October 2011. At the time, it had an estimated cost of up to $94 million. By May of this year, that cost ceiling had swelled to $292 million.
Read the rest here.

If the GOP had not gone off on their Thelma and Louise road trip they could have had a field day with stuff like this. They strike me as a party determined to always and everywhere seek new ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. In the meantime, instead of wall to wall coverage of the train wreck that is Obamacare, all we are getting is endless discussion of how much the general public now loathes the GOP because of their idiotic efforts to hold the country, and to some degree the world, hostage to their political agenda.

Friday, October 18, 2013

ACNA Keeps the Filioque

The decision to keep the filioque clause in “Texts for Common Prayer” represents a victory of common sense over special interests writes George Conger and is a mark of the political and theological maturity of the Anglican Church of North America.
Read the rest here.
HT: T-19

In the grand scheme of things this is neither surprising nor especially significant. Anglican deviations from Orthodoxy are innumerable, irrespective of the Filioque. But there has always been a certain clique within Orthodoxy that believes that at least some Anglicans really are only a bit removed from us and if we could just get them to make that all important symbolic change then we would be on the road to some sort of corporate reunion with a part of the Western Church. I have long suspected former Met. Jonah was among them.

In any event, this should put paid to these delusions, at least until the next Anglican splinter group pops up.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Dhimmi Church of Sweden

...a controversy has arisen in Sweden over the inability of candidates for the office archbishop in the Swedish Church to affirm that Jesus Christ presented a truer picture of God than Mohammed.

One of the illustrious clerics who seemed all too willing to blur the distinctions between Christianity and Islam was the front-runner Antje Jackelén, who has since been elected to become the new archbishop. Our Swedish correspondent LN has translated several articles about the controversy, beginning with an overview of the theologian Eva Hamberg, who left the church rather than be a party to the encroachment of “Chrislam”.

Unfortunately, like so many other Scandinavian institutions — political parties, media outlets, and most private charitable organizations — the Swedish church is state-funded. This means that most non-state alternatives are competitively hobbled, and remain largely vestigial. Ms. Hamberg may thus find it hard to obtain a new, paying position in any non-PC Christian church in Sweden.
Read the rest here.

Finally some love from south of the border

Via the MCJ, Mexico seems to have found some appreciation for us. Though I fear it will be short lived.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

50,000 Christians in Syria Request Russian Citizenship

A damning indictment of the West.

Reports: Debt deal likely reached - Boehner will bypass Tea Party in House vote

Multiple news sources are saying that House Speaker John Boehner has decided to present a Senate compromise to the full House of Representatives irrespective of opposition from the Tea Party wing of his caucus. If true it may signal a last minute aversion of a serious fiscal crisis, with potentially huge economic ramifications. It is also likely to leave Boehner in a really hard spot with his own caucus.

Felix Salmon: The Default Has Already Begun

The big question in Washington this week is whether, in the words of the NYT, we’re going to see “a legislative failure and an economic catastrophe that could ripple through financial markets, foreign capitals, corporate boardrooms, state budget offices and the bank accounts of everyday investors”. In this conception — and I have subscribed to it just as much as anybody else — the sequester is bad, the shutdown is worse, and the default associated with hitting the debt ceiling is so catastrophic as to be unthinkable.

This frame is a useful one, not least for the politicians in Washington, who seem to have become inured to the suffering caused by the shutdown, and downright blasé about the negative consequences of the sequester. Both of them could last more or less indefinitely were it not for the debt ceiling, which is helpfully providing a hard-and-fast deadline: Congress is going to have to come up with a deal before the ceiling is reached, because the alternative is, well, the zombie apocalypse.

There’s more than a little truth here: I’m a firm believer, for instance, that the president both can and should prioritize debt repayments in the event that the debt ceiling is reached. If we’re going to be so stupid as to hit the ceiling, then prioritizing debt service is the least-worst outcome. But at the same time, the situation is less binary than it looks, not least because the US government is already in default on its obligations.

The best way to look at this, I think, is that there’s a spectrum of default severities. At one end, you have the outright repudiation of sovereign debt, a la Ecuador in 2008; at the other end, you have the sequester, which involves telling a large number of government employees that the resources which were promised them will not, in fact, arrive. Both of them involve the government going back on its promises, but some promises are far more binding, and far more important, than others.

Right now, with the shutdown, we’ve already reached the point at which the government is breaking very important promises indeed: we promised to pay hundreds of thousands of government employees a certain amount on certain dates, in return for their honest work. We have broken that promise. Indeed, by Treasury’s own definition, it’s reasonable to say that we have already defaulted: surely, by any sensible conception, the salaries of government employees constitute “legal obligations of the US“.
Read the rest here.

North Carolina Suspends Welfare for Duration of Federal Shutdown

(Reuters) - North Carolina has become the first state to cut off welfare benefits to poor residents in the wake of the partial federal government shutdown, ordering a halt to processing November applications until a deal is reached to end the federal standstill.

More than 20,000 people - most of them children - receive monthly benefits aimed at helping them buy food and other basic supplies through North Carolina's welfare program, called Work First, which is fully funded by the federal government. Recipients must reapply each month.

The state's Department of Health and Human Services told its local offices in a letter dated October 10 not to process applications for November benefits until the federal government reaches a deal to restore normal operations.
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Debt Deal Unlikely to Pass Before Thursday Deadline

Even the most optimistic are now conceding that it is all but impossible to get the debt limit raised before Thursday's deadline. What will happen is unknown. We are sailing in uncharted waters. Enough money will likely still be coming in from ordinary tax receipts to cover our bonds. But anything beyond that is up in the air. The simple math is that there is not enough money to fund non-discretionary spending (mandated by law) AND the discretionary spending that most people think of as obviously essential (military, law enforcement, public safety etc). And we have no idea how long the financial markets are going to stay calm.

So no, we are probably not going to default on the national debt (bonds) right away. But if this drags on, bad things are going to start happening... quickly.

Update: SSPX offers to celebrate funeral for Nazi war criminal (updated correction)

The latest from the AP is here.

The Diocese of Rome, presumably with the full approval of the Pope, had forbidden any of its priests from offering the Requiem Mass in public for the unrepentant Nazi. See here for the previous posting on the subject.

Update: Multiple sources are reporting that the priest who intended to offer the Requiem Mass is no longer affiliated with the SSPX. The text of the linked story has also changed drastically overnight.

Fitch warns of possible downgrade in US credit rating

WASHINGTON — The Fitch credit rating agency has warned that it is reviewing the U.S. government’s AAA credit rating for a possible downgrade, citing Thursday’s looming deadline to increase the nation’s borrowing limit.

Fitch has placed the U.S. credit rating on negative watch, a step that would precede an actual downgrade. The agency said it expects to conclude its review within the next six months.

Fitch says it expects the debt limit will be raised soon, but adds, “the political brinkmanship and reduced financing flexibility could increase the risk of a U.S. default.”

Fitch is one of the three leading U.S. credit ratings agencies, along with Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s. S&P downgraded U.S. long-term debt to “AA” in August 2011.
From here.

House GOP prepare latest offer in debt brinksmanship

The Republican-controlled House will vote Tueday night on a plan to reopen the federal government and avoid a first-ever default on the nation’s debt, only two days before the government exhausts its ability to borrow money.

But it was far from clear whether the Republican proposal, if approved, could attract enough support in the Democratic-controlled Senate to end Washington’s political crisis. The plan contained several provisions that Democrats have strongly opposed.
Read the rest here.

Note: This is a developing story and the linked story is likely to change over time.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Conservative Catholics Question Pope Francis

Rattled by Pope Francis’s admonishment to Catholics not to be “obsessed” by doctrine, his stated reluctance to judge gay priests and his apparent willingness to engage just about anyone — including atheists — many conservative Catholics are doing what only recently seemed unthinkable:

They are openly questioning the pope.

Concern among traditionalists began building soon after Francis was elected this spring. Almost immediately, the new pope told non-Catholic and atheist journalists he would bless them silently out of respect. Soon after, he eschewed Vatican practice and included women in a foot-washing ceremony.

The wary traditionalists became critical when, in an interview a few weeks ago, Francis said Catholics shouldn’t be “obsessed” with imposing doctrines, including on gay marriage and abortion. Then earlier this month, Francis told an atheist journalist that people should follow good and fight evil as they “conceive” of them. These remarks followed an interview with journalists this summer aboard the papal airplane in which the pope declared that it is not his role to judge someone who is gay “if they accept the Lord and have goodwill.”
Read the rest here.

NSA collects millions of e-mail address books

The National Security Agency is harvesting hundreds of millions of contact lists from personal e-mail and instant messaging accounts around the world, many of them belonging to Americans, according to senior intelligence officials and top secret documents provided by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden.

The collection program, which has not been disclosed before, intercepts e-mail address books and “buddy lists” from instant messaging services as they move across global data links. Online services often transmit those contacts when a user logs on, composes a message, or synchronizes a computer or mobile device with information stored on remote servers.
Read the rest here.

Church and State Refuse Rome Funeral for Nazi

What to do with the body of a Nazi war criminal no one wants?

Rome's mayor, police chief and the pope's right-hand man have all refused to grant former SS captain Erich Priebke a church funeral in the city where he participated in one of the worst massacres in German-occupied Italy. Now there's the added question of where to bury him, since Rome, his adopted homeland of Argentina, and his hometown in Germany won't take him.

Priebke spent nearly 50 years as a fugitive before being extradited to Italy from Argentina in 1995 to stand trial for the 1944 massacre at the Ardeatine Caves outside Rome, in which 335 civilians were killed. He died Friday at age 100 in the Rome home of his lawyer, Paolo Giachini, where he had been serving his life term under house arrest.

His death has raised a torrent of emotions over how best to lay to rest someone who perpetrated war crimes and denied the Holocaust that killed 6 million Jews. It has tested the church's capacity for mercy and forgiveness and its need to prevent public scandal. There is a seemingly intractable conflict between respect for the dead and that owed to the millions of victims of the Holocaust.
Read the rest here.

The sun is setting on dollar supremacy, and with it, American power

A serious alternative to the dollar is still a long way off, but the latest shenanigans on Capitol Hill have given the search for them renewed momentum

All great empires – from the Greek, to the Roman, the Spanish and the British - have at their heart a dominant means of exchange which is very much part of their political and social hegemony. Once upon a time, it was Roman coinage which was the world's pre-eminent currency. In more recent times it was the British pound. Today, it's the US dollar to which international investors flock as a safe haven for their money. Highly liquid and apparently reliable – until recently at least – nothing else comes even remotely close to the greenback's dominant position in the international monetary system.

That this position – what Giscard d'Estaing referred to as America's "exorbitant privilege" – could so casually be put at risk by politicians on Capitol Hill is an extraordinary spectacle that may be indicative of a great power already seriously on the wane. 
Read the rest here.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Armenian Church to Glorify Martyrs of 1915 Genocide

“In a move that has surprised Turkey, the Armenian Church is going to proceed with the canonization of the victims of the Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Turkish State in 1915, using Kurdish labourers for the massacres. The scientifically perpetrated genocide by, is described by the Turkish historian Taner Akcam as "A shameful act" (the title of his book ) . But the Ankara government has never recognized it and rejects the definition of "genocide”,” missionary news agency AsiaNews reports.

“Sources quoted by Turkish newspapers say the canonization will take place in 2015, the centenary of the genocide of 1.5 million Armenians killed in Asia Minor.”
Read the rest here.

Roman Catholic Archbishop Suggests Admitting Anglicans to Communion

The ban on Anglicans receiving Roman Catholic Holy Communion could be relaxed as part of moves to bring the two churches together after centuries of division, one of Britain’s most senior Catholic clerics has suggested.

The Archbishop of Birmingham, the Most Rev Bernard Longley, signalled that restrictions, which can be traced back to the Reformation, might be “reconsidered” as a result of “deeper sharing” between the two churches.

Although he insisted that he was expressing a “personal view”, the Archbishop’s comments will be closely watched as he is the senior Catholic cleric responsible for dialogue with the Anglican churches.
Read the rest here.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Another Episco-Cath love letter to Pope Francis

...This mega-trend would have seemed as irreversible as a sunset until a 76-year-old cardinal from Argentina was named leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in March. That the pope would take the name of Francis — the 12th-century mystic, nature lover and friend of the dispossessed — was the first shock. Since then, the seismic waves have just kept on rolling.

Pope Francis has shown himself to be a free spirit and a free thinker. He loves the music of Mozart, the paintings of Chagall, the films of Fellini. He tweets. He talks to atheists. He stays out of politics. He calls for the faithful to “mess up the church.” He doesn’t moralize or sermonize, and famously said, when asked about gays, “Who am I to judge?” Is this pope Catholic?

Francis has befuddled the guardians of dogma and medieval sexual doctrines who have long kept sunlight out of the Vatican. He is — gasp — a liberal. Or at the least, as he said, “I have never been a right winger.” But to put him in those restrictive political terms does a disservice to the quiet revolution of Pope Francis.
Read the rest here.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Poll: 60 percent say fire every member of Congress

Throw the bums out.

That’s the message 60 percent of Americans are sending to Washington in a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll, saying if they had the chance to vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, they would. Just 35 percent say they would not.
Read the rest here.

In another poll respondents where asked which they held in higher regard, toe fungus or Congress. The toe fungus won decisively.

The death of JFK and the rewriting of history by the Left

“Ex-Marine Asks Soviet Citizenship”

— Washington Post headline,

Nov. 1, 1959

(concerning Lee Harvey Oswald)

“He didn’t even have the satisfaction of being killed for civil rights. It’s — it had to be some silly little Communist.”

— Jacqueline Kennedy,

Nov. 22, 1963

She thought it robbed his death of any meaning. But a meaning would be quickly manufactured to serve a new politics. First, however, an inconvenient fact — Oswald — had to be expunged from the story. So, just 24 months after the assassination, Arthur Schlesinger Jr., the Kennedys’ kept historian, published a thousand-page history of the thousand-day presidency without mentioning the assassin.

The transformation of a murder by a marginal man into a killing by a sick culture began instantly — before Kennedy was buried. The afternoon of the assassination, Chief Justice Earl Warren ascribed Kennedy’s “martyrdom” to “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” The next day, James Reston, the New York Times luminary, wrote in a front-page story that Kennedy was a victim of a “streak of violence in the American character,” noting especially “the violence of the extremists on the right.”
Read the rest here.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Azerbaijan Accidentally Releases Official Election Results Early

As in the day before voting was to begin. Call me cynical, but something is fishy here.

Study: Two percent of counties responsible for majority of US executions

Just two percent of counties in the United States are responsible for more than half of the country's executions since 1976, according to a new report from the Death Penalty Information Center.

The report, released last week, found that not only are just 62 U.S. counties behind the majority of the death row population and death sentences, but 85 percent of the remaining 3,081 counties in the U.S. have not had a single case resulting in an execution in over 45 years.

"In large swaths, there are no executions. The U.S. is in one sense a death penalty country, but in another sense, a very hesitant, pick-and-choose kind of death penalty country. It's not used in the majority of our jurisdictions," said Richard Dieter, the Death Penalty Information Center's executive director and author of the report.

The total cost of one death sentence is estimated at $3 million, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, a non-profit organization that promotes discussion on capital punishment.
Read the rest here.

Tea Party: Debt limit is no big deal

WASHINGTON — Senator Richard Burr, Republican of North Carolina, a reliable friend of business on Capitol Hill and no one’s idea of a bomb thrower, isn’t buying the apocalyptic warnings that a default on United States government debt would lead to a global economic cataclysm.

“We always have enough money to pay our debt service,” said Mr. Burr, who pointed to a stream of tax revenue flowing into the Treasury as he shrugged off fears of a cascading financial crisis. “You’ve had the federal government out of work for close to two weeks; that’s about $24 billion a month. Every month, you have enough saved in salaries alone that you’re covering three-fifths, four-fifths of the total debt service, about $35 billion a month. That’s manageable for some time.”
Read the rest here.

Strictly speaking, they are correct. The danger of an actual default on US Treasury debt is pretty low in the near term. But the good news definitely stops there. While there will be enough money in the near term coming in from ordinary tax receipts to cover the interest on US bonds, there is no where near enough to run even minimal essential services beyond that.

When considering what we need to spend money on, Government expenditures can be ranked into three tiers by priority. The top tier is the national debt. This is covered by language in the 14th Amendment which IMHO means the debt gets serviced before anything and everything else. Period. After that we have so called non-discretionary spending. These are programs that are required by law to spend certain amounts of money. Think Medicare. And then we have discretionary spending which pretty much covers everything else, like law enforcement, air traffic controllers and national defense. We probably have enough to cover the first two tiers of priorities without more borrowing. After that though, there will be damned little left over.

So we are talking about the immediate imposition of a level of austerity the likes of which would almost certainly be devastating economically and create serious risks to public safety and national security. And while our bonds are safe, contractors and vendors who are owed money by the US Government would be in the bottom tier of spending priorities for our suddenly balanced budget. They may be waiting a while until they get paid.

The ripple effects of this will be like an economic bomb going off. And it will get worse quickly. As the economy plunges into another recession, possibly including another panic on Wall Street, tax receipts are going to start dropping rapidly. This is going to mean that we are going to have to rebalance our budget on an almost month by month basis with ever deeper cuts in non-discretionary spending. Which in turn will have worse and worse effects on the economy causing further drops in tax revenue... repeat until sanity returns.

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Paul Craig Roberts on the Shutdown

The inability of the media and politicians to focus on the real issues never ceases to amaze.

The real crisis is not the “debt ceiling crisis.” The government shutdown is merely a result of the Republicans using the debt limit ceiling to attempt to block the implementation of Obamacare. If the shutdown persists and becomes a problem, Obama has enough power under the various “war on terror” rulings to declare a national emergency and raise the debt ceiling by executive order. An executive branch that has the power to inter citizens indefinitely and to murder them without due process of law, can certainly set aside a ceiling on debt that jeopardizes the government.
Read the rest here.
HT: Blog reader Jason

I don't agree with all of his points but this is an interesting read with some cogent arguments.

Just wondering

Back in 2008, The One campaigned on a platform of health care reform. He pointed out, ad nauseum, that tens of millions of Americans had no health care insurance. Fair enough.

So why is it that five years and untold millions of dollars later, the Obama Administration appears not to have planned for the possibility that millions of people might try to sign up for this new insurance thingy? Seriously. Who did they hire to design their website? Was his last name Cruz?

Frank Bruni: Hold the hyperbole please

You might think that the methodical extermination of millions of Jews by a brutal regime intent on world domination would resist appropriation as an all-purpose metaphor. You might think that genocide, of all things, would be safe from conversion into sloppy simile. 

You’d be wrong. 

After Paul Ryan’s fact-challenged address at the Republican National Convention last year, the chairman of the Democratic Party in California actually compared him and his compatriots to the Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. A short time later, the chairman of the Democratic Party in South Carolina likened that state’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, to Adolf Hitler’s mistress, Eva Braun. 
Read the rest here.

I too have occasionally been guilty of overheated rhetoric... mea cula mea culpa...

Gary Gutting thinks the Pope is still Catholic

And he is not happy about it.

Monday, October 07, 2013

WAPO: Don’t slam D.C. for the shutdown America; You sent these wackos here.

A pointed and not altogether unfair article.

The latest battle over abuse of eminent domain

Very early on a Wednesday morning in September, the city council of Richmond, Calif., did something that no American city had yet managed: It voted for a plan to wrest underwater mortgages from the hands of Wall Street, depriving investors of tens
of millions of dollars in order to save borrowers from foreclosure...

...In short, here's how it would work: Richmond condemns mortgages on homes that are now worth far less than what the borrower owes. The note holders -- investors such as pension funds and mutual funds -- are forced to settle for the current fair market value. The city pays for this with cash from a new set of investors, who now own the mortgage. The new price is set by the current market, and the homeowner settles into a more manageable loan.

It's that smashing of the bond between lender and debtor that animates investors. They've acted aggressively to stop it, lobbying the mayor and council members directly. Wells Fargo and Deutsche Bank, on behalf of scores of investment funds, sued to stop the plan. The securities industry points out that the plan would also hurt pensioners who own pieces of Richmond's mortgages. Indeed, last week, California Public Employees' Retirement System -- the safety net for some Richmond workers -- expressed concerns.
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Don't want to raise debt ceiling? Get ready for severe austerity

A recent CNN/ORC poll found that 38% of Americans think it would be a good idea not to raise the debt ceiling.

If the country wants to continue paying all its bills, that's not a realistic option for many reasons large and small, legal and practical. Here are just two:

Bills may be delayed but must be paid: Putting off payments to, say, federal contractors wouldn't save the government any money. In fact, it would cost taxpayers more money. The Treasury Department must pay those bills at some point, along with interest penalties for being late.

Spending must be slashed or taxes hiked: The Congressional Research Service estimates that over the next 12 months, the government will spend an average of $30 billion more every month than it takes in.

But if Congress hasn't raised the debt ceiling, borrowing to bridge the difference won't be possible. Instead, lawmakers would have four options to choose from that would have to be implemented abruptly:

Slash discretionary spending (including defense) by 33% every month. Cut mandatory spending (such as spending on Social Security) by 16% every month. Raise taxes by 12% every month. Or some combination of all three

That's the gentle scenario.
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Supreme Court Has Deep Docket in Its New Term

WASHINGTON — After back-to-back terms ending in historic rulings that riveted the nation, the Supreme Court might have been expected to return to its usual diet of routine cases that rarely engage the public.

Instead, the court’s new term, which starts Monday, will feature an extraordinary series of cases on consequential constitutional issues, including campaign contributions, abortion rights, affirmative action, public prayer and presidential power.
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Moderate Republicans Plan Challenges to Far Right Congressmen

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — Nearly three years after a band of renegade congressmen brought the tea party insurgency to Washington, there are early rumblings of a political backlash in some of their districts.

Here in the Dutch Reformed country of West Michigan, long a bastion of mainstream, mannerly conservatism, voters in 2010 handed the House seat once held by Gerald R. Ford to Justin Amash, a 33-year-old revolutionary and heir to the libertarian mantle of former congressman Ron Paul (R-Tex.). Amash was part of an attempted coup against House Speaker John A. Boehner (R- Ohio) and is a leader of the House tea party faction that helped force a government shutdown last week.

But within Grand Rapids’ powerful business establishment, patience is running low with Amash’s ideological agenda and tactics. Some business leaders are recruiting a Republican primary challenger who they hope will serve the old-fashioned way — by working the inside game and playing nice to gain influence and solve problems for the district. They are tired of tea party governance, as exemplified by the budget fight that led to the shutdown and threatens a first-ever U.S. credit default.

Similar efforts are underway in at least three other districts — one in the moneyed Detroit suburbs and the others in North Carolina and Tennessee — where business leaders are backing primary campaigns against Republican congressmen who have alienated party leaders. The races mark a notable shift in a party in which most primary challenges in recent years have come from the right.
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Friday, October 04, 2013

Worth a glance

Exorcism in the Haunt of Demons
The Pope said WHAT?!

Armenian Church, Survivor of the Ages, Faces Modern Hurdles

ECHMIADZIN, Armenia — In this ancient city, tucked in a valley that has witnessed the rise and fall of empires, King Tiridates III converted to Christianity and declared Armenia to be the world’s first Christian state. The year was 301, more than a decade before the Emperor Constantine put Rome on a similar path.

Since then, the Armenian Apostolic Church, which still has its main cathedral here, has survived conquest and dispersion, genocide and government-imposed atheism during the years Armenia was part of the Soviet Union. It also endured centuries of internal rancor, including a split in 1441 that led to the establishment of a rival leadership now based in Lebanon.
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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Why Obamacare is not like the Canadian system

Despite the partisan war in Washington that shut down the federal government this week, President Barack Obama has succeeded in implementing the first major health reform in the United States in nearly 50 years, as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act goes into effect. Even though its most virulent critics raise the spectre of “Canadian-style” health care, “Obamacare” does little to change the enduring differences between the two health care system. What, exactly, does “Obamacare” look like compared to Canada?

Not single-payer: Canadian critics tend to rail against “two-tiered” medicine, but in fact, the U.S. has a multi-tiered system. And despite the hype on both sides of the Congressional aisles, Obamacare keeps the same complex structure in place, while adding another layer through the introduction of health care “exchanges” for uninsured Americans. But the majority of Americans will continue to access care through a variety of health insurance plans made available or subsidized by their employer; nearly 50 million elderly and disabled through the federal Medicare program; another 60 million lowest-income through state-federal Medicaid arrangements.

Not universal coverage: Health care in Canada is based on a simple proposition: every legal resident is covered through a publicly-financed provincial or territorial plan. The individual mandate, derived from a Republican precedent in Massachusetts, stands in stark contrast to Canada’s universality principle. Even though Obamacare broadens coverage, the individual mandate relies on a fundamental insurance principle – care depends on type of coverage – and compels Americans to purchase insurance to access care. Americans now have more affordable insurance options and subsidies to cover their costs, and the lowest-income may be eligible for public coverage through the expansion of Medicaid. Still, despite the crush of online traffic as enrolment began Tuesday, only half of the estimated 40-plus million uninsured will be affected by Obamacare.
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HT: T-19

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Obama welcomes Pope Francis' remarks on gays, abortion

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday welcomed Pope Francis' recent remarks that the Catholic Church must shake off an obsession with teachings on abortion, contraception and homosexuals, saying the pontiff was showing incredible humility.

"I tell you, I have been hugely impressed with the pope's pronouncements," Obama said in a CNBC interview.
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Tuesday, October 01, 2013

With economy near collapse Iran seeks accomodation

For years, Iran’s leaders have scoffed at Western economic sanctions, boasting that they could evade anything that came their way. Now, as they seek to negotiate a deal on their nuclear program, the leaders are acknowledging that sanctions, particularly those applied in 2010 on international financial transactions, are creating a hard-currency shortage that is bringing the country’s economy to its knees.

This was evident in New York last week when Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, emphasized the need to act swiftly to resolve the standoff over Iran’s nuclear program, perhaps in three to six months. While there may well be political reasons for him to be in a hurry, Mr. Rouhani and other officials admitted that the sanctions were hurting.

In repeated meetings during the week, Mr. Rouhani and his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said the government’s financial condition was far more dire than the previous president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, had let on.
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